Oklahoma State — What's it like to be the favorite?
The Cowboys have won the Big 12 title before, so this may seem like a bit of a strange question. But I don't believe that they've ever been picked No. 1 in the league since the conference got together in 1996. It's one thing to be a good team that happens to win a title. It's another thing entirely to play a season with a bullseye on your back. The Cowboys were both first in the number of votes and the number of first place votes, so while the margin between Nos. 1 and 4 is pretty slim, the Cowboys will come into 2013 as the most popular choice to win the league, and don't think that the other teams — especially Oklahoma, TCU and Texas — haven't noticed.
Kansas State — How can the Wildcats replace so much lost on defense?
Certainly, a popular question on Monday will be how Kansas State will survive in the post-Collin Klein era. But Bill Snyder has shown that he can win with a number of quarterbacks of varying styles, from pass-first Chad May way back when to more mobile guys like Michael Bishop and Ell Roberson. He even won six games with a game-manager in Grant Gregory. And the rest of the offense is pretty loaded, with eight returning starters. The bigger question is on defense, where the Wildcats must replace a whopping nine starters. The Wildcats ranked first in the league in scoring defense a year ago, but can they even be middle-of-the-road this season? If not, the Wildcats' preseason pick of No. 6 in the league might not be far off.
TCU — What lessons have the Horned Frogs learned from one year in the Big 12?
TCU had a whirlwind first year in the Big 12 with injuries, a young team, two overtime games and a ton of close contests. Now, Casey Pachall and Waymon James return to the lineup and expectations are higher. Keep in mind, TCU lost six of its last nine games after a 4-0 start last year, and of its Big 12 wins, only a 49-21 win over Baylor was truly decisive. 7-6 isn't a typical TCU season under Gary Patterson, and people around the league naturally expect more this season. With a loaded defense that brings back nine starters and the aforementioned offensive additions, along with blue-chip wide receiver transfer Ja'Juan Story, the pieces should be in place. Will the Frogs make a jump forward? That's the expectation.
Kansas — Can the passing game break out this season?
The Jayhawks went 1-11 last year, and obviously had a multitude of problems to get there. But no problem was as big as the Jayhawks' complete inability to throw the ball. How bad was it? Kansas's quarterbacks completed just 47.1 percent of their passes and threw for less than 150 yards per game, while no Kansas receiver caught a touchdown pass. In related news, the Jayhawks ranked last in the league in scoring and lost five close, winnable games by a single score. The quarterback position is an expected upgrade with former five-star signal caller Jake Heaps eligible. And receiver should also be better with the transfers of Nick Harwell — the nation's No. 2 receiver in 2011 — and Justin McCay, along with two JUCO transfers and the development of some young talent. If Heaps can just replicate what he did as a freshman at BYU, it would be a huge upgrade, especially since the Jayhawks have one of the best returning rushing attacks in the league.
Texas Tech — What are the expectations for Kliff Kingsbury's first year?
It's difficult to say that the Red Raiders truly changed after Mike Leach left. You still had Texas Tech trying to throw the ball all over the lot. But at the same time, it always seemed just a bit of an afterthought like Tech wasn't quite all-in on the Air Raid. Now, former Leach quarterback and recent Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kingsbury is back in charge, and he figures to give the passing attack — which was still very good — a little TLC. At the same time, the Red Raiders have a fairly stacked backfield and a brand new quarterback. So the temptation could be there to balance things out, if only a little bit. The defense returns eight starters from a group that was first in the Big 12 in pass defense and No. 5 against the run. The general consensus seems to be that Tech is outside of the four "favorites," and that they're behind even the second-tier of Baylor and Kansas State. But the pieces are there to potentially make a dark horse run. As always, with any new coach, it will be wait-and-see.